Mel Wells: From Ooligan to Literary Arts

We’re excited to showcase our talented alums as they move on to bigger things. Mel Wells graduated from Ooligan in 2009 and currently works as the Program Coordinator at Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon.
What made you decide to come to the publishing program at PSU?
As an undergrad, I was an English major with an editing minor and working as a course editor for the university’s Independent Study office. I wasn’t sure how to get a job in book publishing (moving to NYC sounded terrifying) and I’ve always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest, so when I discovered Ooligan, it was a perfect fit.
Did you always know what you wanted to do in publishing?
Not really, although editing has always been my jam. I love how a book that’s been edited well has “invisible” text, in the sense that a reader gets immersed in the story and doesn’t trip on dangling modifiers or misspellings or shifts in tense.  I also find proofreading to be satisfying on a level that probably indicates a need to be medicated for OCD or something. But until Ooligan, I had no idea how much fun book-centric events could be or that I would love design work.
Do you use much of your Ooligan training in your current job?
Yes! Nonprofit arts administration was an unexpected swerve in my career plans, but I’m constantly using InDesign, proofreading materials, communicating with writers, helping plan and prep for events and readings, and generally promoting the writing community. The professionalism and real-world experiences I had with Ooligan, including managing the editing workgroup, were invaluable. In the interim between graduation and getting hired at Literary Arts, I also worked as a freelance editor.
How much do you think being an Ooligan graduate helped you get your current job?
I like to think that beyond my sparkling personality (this is a joke for my coworkers who know how much I loathe mornings), my experiences at Ooligan were key in landing what has turned out to be my dream job. The network I began while at PSU—specifically through internships, attending readings, and getting to know my amazing peers and fellow alums—was a springboard into where I am now. My connection to Ooligan still opens doors for creative partnerships in the community.
What do you enjoy most about your job at Literary Arts?
The people! Portland’s writing community is full of delightful characters, and I get to work with some of the most talented, ambitious, and witty people I’ve ever met. I feel incredibly lucky to have opportunities such as taking a writing class from Annie Proulx, visiting local high schools with writers like Heidi Durrow and Jeffrey Toobin, and nerding out at all the Portland Arts & Lectures nights and the Oregon Book Awards ceremony. I also work to help local students read their work in front of their peers, perform slam poetry at Verselandia!, get published in a gorgeous anthology, and receive one-on-one mentoring attention on their college essays. My job is a ton of work, but it’s also immensely satisfying and, because I already sound cheesy as hell here, is a source of continual inspiration.

26th Annual Oregon Book Awards

By Kacie Peterson

On the book front, there has been exciting news for some of Portland, Oregon’s best writers! The Oregon Book Awards were held this week on the night of Monday, April 8. The awards are a program held annually by Literary Arts, and this year marked their twenty-sixth anniversary. Many of Oregon’s finest walked away with prizes no one could sniff at.
The Awards Ceremony was held at Gerding Theater right here in Portland, and winners  will be on the road, participating in literary events and touring throughout the state, getting in touch with fans through a myriad of venues. The highlight of the evening was the awarding of the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature, which went to Ooligan Press author Ruth Tenzer Feldman for her outstanding novel, Blue Thread. The book tells the story of a young woman named Miriam, who becomes embroiled in both the Women’s Suffrage Movement and a time-traveling encounter with the strong women from her Jewish heritage. The work’s exploration of women’s rights through the ages make it a deserving winner. Look for a companion novel, The Ninth Day, this Fall from Ooligan Press.
There were many other deserving winners at this year’s ceremony. Portland author Storm Large won the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction for her memoir, Crazy Enough. This was a work documents her struggles with her mother’s mental illness.
The Reader’s Choice Award was given to Cheryl Strayed of Portland for her book Wild. This book is a powerful memoir relating her inner fight to reclaim her life after experiencing the  loss of her mother and the disintegration of her marriage. This book documents her hike of the Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from California to Washington State. It is no wonder that it won the Readers Choice Award; it is a book filled with life’s troubles that many can relate to, and shows how one woman overcame her personal battles and was able to move forward.
Allen Say also, of Portland, was awarded this year’s Eloise Jarvis McGraw Children’s Literature Award for his book Drawing From Memory. This book also has elements of memoir, chronicling Say’s life growing up in Japan during World War II, and learning from his mentor Noro Shinpei, the famous Japanese cartoonist. It tells how Say grew into his role as the notorious artist he is today. This book is sure to inspire young and motivated artists looking to find their niche in the world. It features gorgeous watercolors and photographs.
Kent Hartman of Portland was awarded the Frances Fuller Award for General Nonfiction for his book The Wrecking Crew. This book documents the success of pop musicians of the 1960s and 1970s. Hartman gives the reader an inside look at what really happened to sky rocket the careers of legends such as Simon and Garfunkel and The Beach Boys. It tells the story of the musicians that helped to bring the stars of pop into the spotlight.
All of these award-winning books are must-reads, and they were chosen because they inspire their readers to chase their dreams, conquer hardships, and imagine the world as a different, more wonderful place. I hope all of you are as excited as I am to sit back, relax, and dig in to these compelling and moving stories of 2013.

A Really Big Deal

On Monday, Ooligan author Ruth Tenzer Feldman won an Oregon Book Award for her first novel, Blue Thread. Published last year, Blue Thread has been a bestseller for Ooligan Press and has earned an impressive reputation among reviewers and readers in the Pacific Northwest. We have always been proud of Ruth and of Blue Thread, but to win an Oregon Book Award is a really big deal—it’s something that very few authors can say they have done. Every publisher hopes that their book will be award-winning, and applying for awards is an important step in the publication of a book, but, naturally, not every book will win. Ooligan Press is fortunate to have won more than one Oregon Book Award, but this latest one for Blue Thread is particularly exciting since we are publishing its companion novel, The Ninth Day, this fall. If everything goes according to plan, then The Ninth Day will be as popular as Blue Thread, and maybe win its own Oregon Book Award someday. No one deserves it more than Ruth.
Next week, we will be researching authors and reviewers to start acquiring blurbs for The Ninth Day, as well as adding book award research to the marketing plan.